Zone Two

I’ve been training for my first marathon for the last few months. I’ve never been much of a distance runner, so my running workouts were always short and exhausting—a few miles at a quick pace. But that’s not sustainable. To ascend to 9-, 12-, or 15-mile runs, I needed a steady (dare I say turtle’s) pace. A reasonable distance running speed is ~80% of your maximum heart rate. For me, that’s about 168 BPM (based on my most recent max rate of 210 BPM). When I exerted myself to 160-170 BPM, I felt good—a challenge, sure, but not enough to make me stop. I’d found “Zone Two.”

Like a flow state, Zone Two is a sustainable pace that’s challenging but tractable—an aspiration for many of life’s activities. Many software teams organize their work into two-week development cycles called “sprints”—a callback to mid-2010s startup atmospheres of hustling and grinding. It’s an oxymoron to sprint for a long distance, and an expectation to do so is misery-inducing.

With writing, my Zone Two is 30-60 minutes per day. With running, 160-170 BPM. What would an 80% pace look like for an activity you’re doing?